Start your engines ... I mean, start your grills! Memorial Day weekend is coming, complete with both the Indy 500 and the unofficial start to the grilling season.
This is the food page, so you won’t find much mention of race cars here. And if you’re looking for standard sauces to mop onto meats as they cook on the grill — sweet, spicy, smoky, and sepia-colored — then you’ve unfortunately come to the wrong page for that, as well. Those standard-bearers are classic and traditional, and generally what people think of when the words “barbecue sauce” are mentioned. But in other regions of the country, the rich brown sauces aren’t the norm. In other areas, rather than using tomato sauce as a starter, cooks use sauces based upon mayonnaise, mustard, and vinegar.
Yes ... yes, they do. So if you’d like the opportunity to give your taste buds a different thrill, then you’ve definitely come to the right place to learn something new today.
First, let’s note that grilling is different than barbecuing. Grilling is done quickly over higher heat, whereas barbecue is a culinary art form requiring long, slow cooking. But the same types of sauces can be used for both, thus the ease of the ubiquitous term “barbecue sauce.”
White sauce -- in its purest form a mixture of only mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper -- is a specialty not just of Alabama, but specifically of the northern part of the state. “Ask the average person the color of their favorite sauce, and you’ll probably get answers such as brick red, mahogany, or caramel,” according to Southern Living magazine. “Pose the same question to a resident of North Alabama, though, and you’re sure to get only one answer: white .... Fans of white sauce say that once you’ve doused your barbecued chicken in this sauce, you’ll never go back to red.” This is a bit spicy, especially if mustard and horseradish are added to make it a bit more complex (as in the recipe below), and it features a significant amount of black pepper.
“It was created in Decatur by Robert Gibson at Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q restaurant in 1925,” according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama. “The white sauce has evolved from a kitchen staple to a table condiment, and its use has expanded beyond chicken, with diners often squirting it on pork shoulder. Originally, cooks dunked chickens in the sauce and employees joked that chickens were baptized in it.”
South Carolina’s mustard sauce, deeply golden, and with a distinct tang, can be traced to the region’s German settlers. Discoversouthcarolina.com says that: “Carolinians stress that BBQ beef is just that; but ‘BBQ Pork’ is redundant. BBQ is Pork!” And those meats are slathered in various ways with the state’s iconic sauce: “Some use sauce to baste the meat while it cooks; others douse the meat with the sauce after it is cooked; and sometimes the meat is served without sauce, allowing the customer to determine the amount of sauce desired.” It is an all-purpose condiment, ready to infuse flavor or to brightly bring it to the forefront when slathered onto prepared meats.
In Indiana, the Amish community uses a vinegar sauce as a marinade, tenderizing the meat while enhancing its flavor. “What I like about this barbecue sauce is that there is no tomato in it so it doesn’t char,” wrote the late cookbook author, food historian, and authority on Amish and Mennonite cooking, Marcia Adams. “This is the favorite way to barbecue chicken in this area, and you’ll see why. The chicken remains especially moist if you marinate it overnight before broiling.”
Kansas City and Memphis are noted for their rich, thick, brown sauces; Texas is famous for its spicy ones. Those styles have become renowned and are found in many, if not most, people’s backyards when they’re grilling. But for a twist on your Memorial Day tradition, try one of these tangy, flavorful sauces -- old and yet new, simultaneously.
Alabama White Barbecue Sauce
If you prefer a thicker sauce, omit the water. Whisk together all ingredients until blended. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
Makes 2 cups.
Source: Southern Living, August 2005
South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce
Heat all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat and mix well. Cook until sauce just begins to thicken. Serve cool or warm. The sauce will last in the refrigerator for a long time.
Makes about 6 cups.
Indiana Amish Vinegar Barbecue Sauce
In a large saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat.
Marinate chicken in the sauce overnight, covered and in the refrigerator, then grill.
Makes 16 servings.
Source: Marcia Adams' Cooking from Quilt Country: Hearty Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens